In the stunning title story, Ruma, a young mother in a new city, is visited by her father who carefully tends her garden–where she later unearths evidence of a love affair he is keeping to himself. In “A Choice of Accommodations,” a couple’s romantic getaway weekend takes a dark turn at a party that lasts deep into the night. In “Only Goodness,” a woman eager to give her younger brother the perfect childhood she never had is overwhelmed by guilt, anguish and anger when his alcoholism threatens her family. And in “Hema and Kaushik,” a trio of linked stories–a luminous, intensely compelling elegy of life, death, love and fate–we follow the lives of a girl and boy who, one fateful winter, share a house in Massachusetts. They travel from innocence to experience on separate, sometimes painful paths, until destiny brings them together again years later in Rome.
Unaccustomed Earth is rich with the author’s signature gifts: exquisite prose, emotional wisdom and subtle renderings of the most intricate workings of the heart and mind. It is the work of a writer at the peak of her powers.
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After her mother’s death, Ruma’s father retired from the pharmaceutical company where he had worked for many decades and began traveling in Europe, a continent he’d never seen. In the past year he had visited France, Holland, and most recently Italy. They were...
1. Discuss the relevance of the epigraph from Hawthorne’s “The Custom House” not just to the title story but also to the collection as a whole. In which stories do the children successfully “strike their roots into unaccustomed earth”? Why do others find themselves unable to establish roots...
“Wonderfully distinctive . . . a writer of uncommon poise.” – The New York Times
“Lahiri’s enormous gifts as a storyteller are on full display in this collection: the gorgeous, effortless prose; the characters haunted by regret, isolation, loss, and tragedies big and small; and most of all, a quiet, emerging sense of humanity.” – Khaled Hosseini, author of A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner
"Jhumpa Lahiri's new collection of stories overflows with insights about the secrets we can hide. While these stories examine the crossing and commingling of Indian and Western cultures, the feelings of pride, love, and loneliness ring true in any society. They are jewels." – Rosemary Pugliese, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC
“Lahiri extends her mastery of the short-story in a collection that has a novel’s thematic cohesion, narrative momentum and depth of character. . . . Some of her most compelling fiction to date. An eye for detail, ear for dialogue and command of family dynamics distinguish this uncommonly rich collection.” – Kirkus Reviews
“Stunning . . . The gulf that separates expatriate Bengali parents from their American–raised children — and that separates the children from India — remains Lahiri’s subject for this follow-up to Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake. . . . Lahiri’s stories of exile, identity, disappointment and maturation evince a spare and subtle mastery that has few contemporary equals.” – Publishers Weekly
“Pulitzer Prize—winning Lahiri returns with her highly anticipated second collection exploring the inevitable tension brought on by family life. . . . [Lahiri’s] ability to flesh out completely even minor characters in every story . . . is what will keep readers invested in the work until its heartbreaking conclusion.” – Library Journal
“The tight arc of a story is perfect for Lahiri’s keen sense of life’s abrupt and powerful changes, and her avid eye for telling details. This collection’s five powerful stories and haunting triptych of tales about the fates of two Bengali families in America map the perplexing hidden forces that pull families asunder and undermine marriages. . . . Lahiri’s emotionally and culturally astute short stories (ideal for people with limited time for pleasure reading and a hunger for serious literature) are surprising, aesthetically marvelous, and shaped by a sure and provocative sense of inevitability.” – Booklist
“Ferociously good . . . acutely observed . . . In exquisitely attuned prose, Lahiri notes the clash between generations . . . She is emotionally precise about her characters and the way the world appears to them . . . These are unforgettable people, their stories unforgettably well told.” – O, The Oprah Magazine
“A great book . . . to move you. Whether American or Bengali by birth, Lahiri’s protagonists valiantly walk a tightrope between personal choice and family expectation. Faltering or triumphant, each tugs at the heart.” – Good Housekeeping
“[Lahiri] explores with her modulated prose a full range of relationships among her subjects. So thoroughly and judiciously does she use detail that she easily presents entire lives with each story. These are tales of careful observation and adjustment.” – The Atlantic
“Dazzling . . . [Lahiri’s] comparisons with literary masters such as Alice Munro are well-earned. In these eight exquisitely detailed stories, Lahiri is less interested in painful family conflicts than in the private moments of sadness that come in their aftermath.” – More
“Lahiri’s finely drawn prose makes [Unaccustomed Earth] feel less like reading and more like peering into the most raw, intimate moments of people’s lives.” – Marie Claire
“Lahiri delves into the souls of indelible characters struggling with displacement, guilt, and fear as they try to find a balance between the solace and suffocation of tradition and the terror and excitement of the future into which they’re being thrust. . . . [Unaccustomed Earth] further establishes her as an important American writer.” – Bookforum
“Brilliant . . . Vividly imagined . . . In Unaccustomed Earth, Lahiri’s preternaturally mature voice has grown even more confident. . . . Her sharp and sympathetic observations are deeply considered, using memory, dialogue, and visual detail to capture family dynamics . . . Masterful.” – India Currents
“Once you’ve started, you have to struggle not to set aside every other obligation and distraction until you’ve reached the end. . . . Lahiri’s prose is effortlessly articulate. Her stories move from one carefully wrought scene to another, often turning on a motif that appears earlier in the story.” – National Post
“[T]he emotional impact Lahiri achieves is not only underpinned by her mastery of detail, it’s inseparable from it. . . . [W]e are left in rapt anticipation of just where this great writer might go next.” – The Gazette
“A strain of the mythic that totally engages . . . Lahiri is note-perfect.” – Toronto Star